“….Behold, the sower went forth to sow . And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty,” (Matthew 13:3-8).
This is a fascinating, multidimensional parable. Most of the time we interpret it by focusing only on the soil. Each one of us who has studied the parable has shuddered at the likelihood of being identified with wayside soil, rocky soil or thorny ground. Because we desire to be the good soil, we find ourselves almost always compelled to conduct a deep self-introspection, and an evaluation of our own spiritual standing. We make an effort to identify strongholds in our lives that defy spiritual regeneration; areas that need to be surrendered to God so that we can walk in victory and worthy of our calling, which is a commendable undertaking indeed. We do not want to be the type of soil that is not productive nor do we want to belong to churches that are inefficient or those that misuse or waste the resources dedicated to the Lord. This mindset has engrossed the church so much that it has become a guide in planning evangelistic efforts. When planning evangelistic meetings, budgets are carefully planned to avoid “wayside, stony, and thorny ground” wastage. The focus is usually on potentially “good soil” as the target population group for our efforts so that we can end up with a 30-fold, 60-fold or 100-fold harvest. The more, the better—it is a game of statistics!!! We send individuals ahead to till the ground to ensure that it is receptive to the seed because we must be smarter than that “reckless” sower of antiquity. Sometimes special marketing strategies are designed and implemented to maximize the harvest from the church’s financial investment. No wonder we end up with homogeneous churches-cocoons that shut-out “publicans.”
But what if we attempted to look at this parable from another dimension? What if we focused on the nature of the sower Himself? This seemingly wasteful sower seems to have no concept of the cost of His seed in the light of global economic down-turns. He insists on being appallingly extravagant! As a matter of fact, extravagance is His nature. He tends to always give exceedingly abundantly more than we can ask or think. Look at how lavishly He has arrayed the universe with billions of galaxies and astonishingly glorious nebulae. One only has to look into the telescope to behold astounding formations of constellations hanging against the vast darkness of space. Then there is that gem of our universe, the blue planet swarming with an unparalleled ecosystem. This is also home to creatures bearing His image, to whom He gave His Son. Talk about epic giving!
This is the Sower who goes out to sow His seed in myriad of soil types. Not skipping over the dry, unpromising soil, He casts His seed on the wayside and bicycle lanes, and asphalt pavement with a constant flow of incessant traffic. Pedestrians jostle for space, dodging each other in the hectic traffic, oblivious of the seed they are crushing underfoot. The traffic is so dense that the “senseless” efforts of the Sower become an irritating distraction and, consequently, a target of disparagement and crass jokes. But the Sower keeps on sowing His seed unmindful of the profanities directed at Him. Some seed falls on hungry winos sprawled in the gutters of the back alleys of the city center. Curiously, they pick up the seed, examine it, toss it in the mouth and down it with the dregs of their stale beer. Some of the seed falls on the soil littered with rotting trash on the edges of the gutters. It quickly germinates and blossoms into stunningly beautiful flowers. Enthusiastically, the Sower continues to sow His seed. Some of it falls in church parking lots and the deacons quickly sweep it away in an attempt to keep the grounds immaculate for parishioners. On and on the sower goes…to those steeped into superstition and witchcraft. Some of them pick the seed up. Supposing it to be a magical remedy for their ailments, they eat it up. The Sower proceeds to institutions of higher learning, scattering His seed in lecture halls amid scorn and hysterical ridicule. Tirelessly, he marches casting His seed in fields in the community valley where the seed sprouts and brings forth a rich harvest. He keeps on sowing joyfully and lavishly until the end of the planting season.
It is said that children are the future of every nation. But why does it seem like we are squandering this human capital which holds our future in their hands? The inevitable intersection of poverty and homelessness makes our children vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, violence and disease. Child homelessness is a problem for both developed and developing nations. Homelessness severs the victim from interconnected social structures.
The World Health Organization claims that there are over 100 million children who are homeless in the world. Most of them are known as street children in their respective societies.
In the United States, the DoSomething.org claims that there are 1.7 million homeless adolescents. The National Center for Family Homelessness says nearly 1 in 30 children experiences homelessness in the United States each year. In some states such as Kentucky the figures are higher-about 1 in 15 children experience homelessness each year. The risk factors for child homelessness are many including home foreclosure rates, failure of parents to pay rent, illness or death of parents, and joblessness of parents leading to evictions.
In some parts of the world vulnerable homeless children are conscripted into armies to serve as child soldiers and to be indoctrinated and turned into killer machines. In other societies, homeless children start early using illicit drugs to muster enough courage to go through the rigors of street life for survival such as committing violence, robberies and engaging in illicit sexual activities. In India it is claimed that the movie, Slum Dog Millionaire, was child’s play in comparison to the actual plight of homeless children there. In Africa, AIDS has left in its wake thousands of homeless or street children open to all forms of exploitation.
Homeless children have more health problems than their counterparts who are not homeless. For example, they are four times more likely to be sick. They have twice as many ear infections, five times as many gastrointestinal problems and asthma, they go hungry twice as often as other children and have emotional and behavioral problems that are three times as high as other children. Sometimes high rates of nutritional deficiencies end up in obesity which is a risk factor for a host of health conditions. It is reported that by the age of 12 some of these children have been exposed to at least one violent or traumatic event. These risk factors culminate into high rates of developmental problems and mental disorders among these children and yet only a few of them receive professional help.
Is child homelessness a sole responsibility of government? Is it the responsibility of charity organizations alone? What are we doing as individuals to alleviate the suffering of these the least of our brethren? To those who thought children to be insignificant, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me…for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matt. 19:14). How shall we lead them to Him if we turn away from their plight?